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His calling, our nation’s blessing

His calling, our nation’s blessing

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The midnight breeze was cold, but the atmosphere surrounding the thousands gathered at Victoria Park for the Independence ceremony in 1979 was warm. There, in the midst of all the excitement, was one man. His contribution 25 years ago on Independence morning, was significant.

As Bishop of the Windward Islands, Archbishop Cuthbert Woodroffe’s blessings on the Independence ceremony in 1979, are considered as the foundation to the old adage “SVG, Land of the Blessed.” {{more}}

86-years of age, the retired Archbishop Woodroffe, born in Grenada in 1918, still muses about his calling for the ministry, since his interest was music. Playing the clarinet and the saxophone, he embarked on a budding career as a musician in his late teens, playing for $2 a night back in those days. “I never wanted to become a priest…I enjoyed playing calypso on my clarinet. I had fun doing that, I really wanted to play music,” he confessed. Archbishop Woodroffe likes to consider himself a musician, but his career as a growing instrumentalist was cut short, making way for his ascension to the position of Archbishop of the West Indies, years later.

His acceptance into the ministry at age 26 may have been an accident well worth it. He quickly pounced on every opportunity to move up the ranks in his new found calling. “It was very interesting that I was ordained on a carnival Monday…I always remember, I was a local culture man,” Archbishop Woodroffe reminisced to SEARCHLIGHT.

In 1945, the young deacon was made a priest. He later followed that up with three years of theology and classical studies at Codrington College in Barbados, later obtaining a Masters in Theology.

After spending over 20 years serving in parishes in Barbados, he returned to St. Vincent in 1967 (he is married to a Vincentian) where he dedicated most of his life serving the Anglican community

As if faith would have had it, this cultural enthusiast was chosen to stand before many in1979 to preside over the ecumenical service at the Cathedral to usher in the dawn of an independent St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Everyone was happy, it was a great feeling,” he said.

What took place during 1979 still remains vivid in his memory: “I remember saying prayers for the nation, we had a Christian council with ministers who all did a part. I blessed the flag and handed it over to the Prime Minister who handed it over to Governor General Sir Sydney Gunmunro who then handed it to the police to be hoisted, as our flag went up the Union Jack came down. This took place on the stroke of midnight,” Archbishop Woodroffe reminisced.

“It was a starting point for the nation, it was great to pull down the Union Jack and put up the breadfruit leaf,” Archbishop Woodroffe said.

Archbishop Woodroffe is happy that the government is in the process of reviewing the constitution. “I know it could not have lasted forever, I think Mr. Cato and the others knew it couldn’t have stayed like that forever,” he lamented.

“As a growing nation, what served us when we were one, could not serve us when we are 25-years-old,” he said.

With dedicated service to the nation he would have impacted on the life of many, baptising over 1000 babies and confirming over 6000.

“I would like to say to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, love one another and behave themselves…tell them the old bishop says to love God and love one another.”